Question: You teach that upon death Christians go to be with Christ. And yet the Bible says they rise from their graves at Christ’s return. How can they be in heaven and rise from their graves, too?
Response: Man is not just the body that dies and is laid in the grave awaiting the resurrection, but is made up of “spirit and soul and body” (1 Thes:5:23; Heb:4:12). We are told that upon death we are “absent from the body [this could only be the soul and spirit—if we are only a body, the body can’t be absent from the body]...present with the Lord” (Phil:1:23; 2 Cor:5:8) and that “them also [the souls and spirits of the redeemed] which sleep in Jesus [their bodies “sleeping” in death, waiting to be awakened at the resurrection] God will bring with him [at the Rapture]” (1 Thes:4:14). At this time “the dead in Christ shall rise” (4:16) to be reunited with the souls and spirits which have been “absent” in heaven. The bodies, of course, will be transformed: “the dead shall be raised incorruptible...this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Cor:15:52,53).
This is what the resurrection is all about, the great hope of every Christian—second only to the hope of not dying: “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye...we shall be changed” (1 Cor:15:51,52); “the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them...to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore, comfort one another with these words” (1 Thes:4:16-18).